UI student chooses to stay in Egypt despite ongoing protests


A University of Iowa student studying in Egypt is safe, and he has decided to stay in the country, even as protests continue, UI officials said Tuesday.

The student, who is enrolled at the American University in Cairo, has spoken with his parents, who subsequently contacted UI staff, said Downing Thomas, the dean of International Programs.

While Thomas couldn’t disclose the student’s name or any personal information, he described the student as a male undergraduate in the College of Liberal Arts and Science.

“I trust him and his family to make the decision that’s best for him based on the advice that’s been given,” said Janis Perkins, the director of the UI Office for Study Abroad. Perkins said she believes Tuesday’s peaceful protests are a positive sign.

The wave of protests against President Hosni Mubarak that have escalated over the past week have led to violence and looting and resulted in thousands of injuries and nearly 100 deaths.

The U.S. State Department has placed Egypt under a travel warning. According to the State Department, approximately 1,600 U.S. citizens have been evacuated from Egypt, and more than 3,000 citizens have asked to be evacuated. Officials expect the numbers to rise.

The UI student is studying in Egypt to complete degree requirements, and he was scheduled to attend classes in Cairo for the entire 2010-11 school year.

If classes are canceled in Cairo for the remainder of the semester, the student could enroll in alternate programs in February, Perkins said.

Because the student is studying abroad in Egypt independently, UI officials can only advise him and provide options. Some other U.S. schools with students studying in Egypt have ordered evacuations, and hundreds of U.S. students have left Egypt in recent days, according to the Washington Post.

The closest precedent for the UI occurred in 2009 following the outbreak of H1N1 in Mexico. University officials canceled a spring session in progress and evacuated students.

Eighteen UI students studied in Egypt during the 2008-09 school year, the last year for which figures are available.

Mubarak has ruled the country for the last three decades, a reign that protesters and many observers say has been oppressive and militaristic.

“It’s very unusual that a person stays in power for 30 years,” said Vicki Hesli, a UI professor of political science. “There is no question … that Mubarak is a dictator.”

Nine Egyptian students are studying at the UI, but all were unavailable for comment.

Mervat Youssef, a former UI doctoral student who is now a professor at Grinnell College, is an Egyptian who immigrated to America in 1999. She spoke proudly about the solidarity of Egyptian people that cuts across age and class differences and said she wanted to be in Tahrir Square with them.

“I’m hopeful that the future is going to be better,” she said.

Youssef said Mubarak’s administration caused “the people [to] feel there is no future because of corruption, nepotism, and chaos.”

Youssef said she visits friends and relatives in Cairo often, and she spoke passionately about the protests.

“We never thought we would live long enough to see this happen,” she said.

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